Father tries to move forward after wife killed children, herself

CLEARWATER, Fla. - There is a patch of dirt under an old oak tree in Pinellas Park, deep within Calvary Catholic Cemetery. Underneath lie three unmarked graves, little more than a week old.

"It was a miserable lifestyle for me and the boys," explained Murphy Brown. "I was pretty much a single parent."

Brown still has nightmares about the early Saturday morning in late September when he found his sons in bed.

"The first thing I did was see if there was any way to save them, but the condition they were in, I knew it was too late," he said.

Soon after, he found his wife, Dawn, also dead in their Clearwater home. Though the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has yet to release autopsy results, family believes Dawn drowned Zander, 9, and Zayden, 5, before hanging herself.

"What I think about the most, what haunts me in my mind, is the evil they faced that night, my little boys," Brown said. "I don't know exactly how she did it and I don't know if I should know that, but that's what I think about the most."

Facing a welfare fraud charge and potentially prison time while living in a foreclosed home, Dawn slipped into major depression. The night before, their electricity was turned off, so they grilled their food and used candles for light.

The electricity was scheduled to be turned back on the following Monday.

Eventually, Murphy planned to move out and take the boys with him. That last night, Dawn asked him if he'd like a night off to play poker. He agreed, calling the game a stress relief and a way to network for business contacts.

"It's a good place to go hang out and meet people," he said. "It's not about gambling. It's not about drinking."

His absence that night, however, is his greatest regret.

"I would have left a lot sooner. I would've taken the boys and left," he said. "I regret that I wasn't able to be home to protect them."

More than a week after their burial, the boys' graves still have no headstone. Murphy raised $1,400 at a poker tournament hosted by Treasure Chest in Clearwater, but he still owes $1,100 for their burial.

Still, Murphy says, what matters is that they're together.

"I feel they'd want me to stand up and keep going forward," Murphy said. "That's what I plan to do, as if they were with me."

For more information on how to help pay for the funeral costs, visit www.giveforward.com/zanderandzayden .

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